VICE-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga has warned hospitals which are demanding Covid-19 clearance certificates from people seeking medical services as well as those capitalising on the global pandemic to charge exorbitant fees saying Government will soon take corrective action.
The turning away of patients without Covid-19 clearance certificates is reportedly happening across the country at both private and public hospitals.
A Covid-19 test certificate is beyond the reach of many as PCR test cost between US$20 and US$65 at private institutions while at public institutions it’s free for people identified during contact tracing.
VP Chiwenga, who was recently appointed Health and Child Care Minister, also promised a new era in the country’s healthcare system, saying there would be massive restructuring of the health sector.
The Vice-President was recently assigned an additional task of taking charge of the Health Ministry which is under the spotlight because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country had by Wednesday recorded 122 Covid-19 deaths and 4 893 confirmed cases.
The country’s situation has been worsened by nurses that are on strike demanding better salaries.
Speaking during a tour of Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme in Binga on Thursday, VP Chiwenga said health institutions should prioritise the protection of human lives.
“Government is aware of some hospitals which are turning away patients seeking medical help by demanding Covid-19 test certificates. Some hospitals are also taking advantage of the pandemic to charge exorbitant fees and we are saying that should stop,” he said.
Dr Chiwenga said Government will soon demand an explanation from hospitals which have been turning away patients or charging exorbitant fees. “No one has authority or right to turn away any person seeking help and we will be taking tough measures,” he said.
Dr Chiwenga said hospitals should not take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to profiteer at the expense of people’s lives.
VP Chiwenga said Government is also in the process of procuring more PPE and testing kits.
“Let’s work together, Government on its part is buying more equipment, PPE and PCR test kits,” he said.
Dr Chiwenga said Government was also working on equipping all hospitals including rural health centres.
“A healthy society means development. If we can’t keep our people healthy then we can’t develop our country,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said the country’s healthcare system is set for massive restructuring and reform.
“We want to rebuild the structures from village, district, provincial to referral hospitals. We must work together to address challenges faced in the health sector,” he said.
The clean-up of the country’s health sector, Dr Chiwenga said, is being done together with the Health Services Board and other ministries such as Finance and Economic Development.
“There will soon be massive restructuring of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and we are doing this together with HSB and the Finance Ministry. A further directive will come from the President after Cabinet briefing,” he said.
Dr Chiwenga said Government was in the process of buying the necessary equipment to make sure that all hospitals have the required equipment to detect the virus so that correct interventions are done at an early stage.
“We have created a red and green zone in our hospitals so that once a person has been checked and is found positive, they are sent to the red zone, where they will receive appropriate treatment,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said Government was concerned that Covid-19 cases continue to rise and urged people to adhere to WHO health guidelines.
“Our medical staff has done a lot and we have recorded more than 1 000 recoveries but we want to control the spread of this virus hence the need to strictly follow health guidelines such as simple hygiene of regularly washing hands with soap and putting face masks in public places. When you have no business to move around stay at home and that helps to contain the virus,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said the country had recorded more than 100 Covid-19 deaths and more than 4 000 cases and there is need to stop the spread of the virus and death of people.
President Mnangagwa appointed Vice-President Chiwenga as new Health Minister after firing Dr Obadiah Moyo who is now facing fraud charges.